Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek Review (Major Spoilers)

There is an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where they go to an alternate universe where Tasha Yar did not die and everything was super dark. It is to date the only Star Trek episode I think about fondly. The lesson is I only like Star Trek in an alternate universe.

I have always hated Star Trek in its various incarnations, mostly because it includes two of my least favorite things: hard science, and ham fisted allegories for contemporary problems, like a planet full of Native Americans or whatever. When people talk about Abrams streamlining, this is the fat he cuts out. You can argue that hard science and social relevance are not fat but rather essential parts of Star Trek, but you can't deny that Abrams' movie is a good movie in its own right.

Star Trek was the perfect summer popcorn blockbuster, no question. It has the essential quality for Summer blockbusters that Dark Knight sorely lacked -- it was brisk. Dark Knight was 2 hours and 40 minutes and felt like 4. Star Trek was less than 2 hours and felt like 70 minutes. And it showed a lot of economy -- not a wasted sequence. Brad pointed out a tiny detail that really captures the whole well: young Kirk, driving a stolen car, hangs up on his step-dad on a futuristic iPhone. You hear that guy's voice for maybe three sentences -- and never see him -- and that is all you need to know about the man who raised Kirk after his father died and how he became a different man as a result. The humor -- the sequence in which Bones keeps injecting Kirk with things was a particular standout.

My favorite example of economy was the simplicity of introducing the idea of the alternate time line -- two, maybe three sentences on the bridge. This guy went back in time and killed your dad. If that had not happened all this would have happened differently. Then off to the next sequence. It does an excellent job situating itself -- neither a sequel nor prequel nor reboot, it is part of the canonical but also basically free from it. That is exactly the distance Abrams needs to tell a good story -- enough room to have his own thing, but enough closeness so that the decisions he makes matter because they are perceived as moving against, or paying homage to, some established original. Poetic freedom only makes sense in opposition to something, says Harold Bloom, and he is totally right.

My Trekie friends told me that in the original series there was an episode in which Spock made out with Uhura, so the alternate universe made explicit something implicit in the original, which is a nice detail if you care about that kind of thing. Brad pointed out to me that in the Next Generation movie in which Shatner plays a role he dies falling off a cliff: the sequence where kid Kirk sends the car over the cliff without falling himself is Abrams saying My Kirk will never die by cliffs because that is the wrong ending for that character. Spock on the other hand -- that character was handled perfectly in the films, so he literally gets to survive in Abrams new universe. (Side note: did anyone think it was interesting that the number of Vulcans killed in this movie was said to be either 6 billion or 6 million, and Spock found a new home for the surviving 10,000 -- I felt like maybe this was drawing on Nemoy's Jewish identity, obviously an important part of his career, connecting the destruction of his planet with the Holocaust). Nemoy in the alternate timeline also pays tribute to the past show in a reserved way -- it would have been easy to load this movie up, so that every extra would have been from the various franchises.

Abrams knows what matters. He has a great structure, which is the most important thing for a movie like this (though that subject will require more than one viewing for me to discuss properly. I cannot remember the last time I saw I movie twice in the theaters but this one may deserve it). And he understands how to hang a movie on character, which is the other thing a good movie needs. The destruction of planets and so forth is all style -- and what communicates its status as style more than the fact that the mega death weapon is the "red matter" which like similar spinning red ball on Alias or even the rabbits foot in Mission Impossible 3, gets no explanation because it needs no explanation. Because that is not what this is about. This guy killed Kirk's Dad. Then he killed Spock's mom. Spock and Kirk develop a friendship in the course of getting revenge. And that is what the movie is about. That may seem obvious but the Matrix sequels are not the only examples of science fiction getting caught up in its own mythology and forgetting the fundamental truth that you are telling stories about people. That is why Lost will not explain the numbers, and why BSG should not have made its final sequence about being kind to robots. Just as Abrams learned (by counter example) from the Matrix sequels to focus on character first and avoid explanations of mythology he also picked up camera work (shaky cam in space, lens flair even in conversations) and a good sense of dirt from Firefly -- while still paying homage to the cleanliness of the original series by having the Enterprise look brand new because it actually is brand new. (Also in the spirit of Firefly, a joke in which the Enterprise fails to launch after a dramatic build).

The score from the guy who does the music for LOST, was wonderful too I thought, though this sentence lacks a paragraph to be in. Sorry.

The woman painted green seemed false to me -- the effects seemed crude (she literally seemed painted) -- but a Trekie friend pointed out that the effects seemed an intentional throwback to the original. This was a point that was made when the trailer revealed the Enterprise being built on a planet rather than in space where it would have been more practical. Star Trek is partly about an older generation's vision of what the future would be like, and that is part of the fun. The casting of Trek fans Simon Pegg and John Cho in right in the spirit of pure fun, and I loved them both.

The only complaint I had about Star Trek -- the only moment when I could not even understand what they were TRYING to do was Why on earth would you cast 37 year old Winona Ryder as Spock's mom? That seriously lost me. No sense at all. Until in talking to Brad I recalled the Frasier episode in which he and Niles go to a restaurant and had the perfect meal -- except for one tiny flaw. Ironically, of course the tiny flaw is part of their perfect evening as no night out for them could be perfect without some tiny flaw to enjoy picking at for the rest of the night. Star Trek fans I think are right on the same page, so maybe this is the perfect movie.

Notice also: Klingons mentioned but never shown. Abrams also knows how to keep something in the bag for the sequel. Nice.


Rokk Krinn said...

Great review! You basically summed up my feelings about this movie and in a much better fashion.

I have never liked Star Trek for the two very reasons that you state in your review. And I appreciated how Abrams streamlined Star Trek and ended up creating a product that I found much more interesting and entertaining.

What I was particularly impressed with was the casting for all of the characters. Simply amazing. This new incarnation of the original crew did an excellent job. The actors were able to capture the spirit of the original characters without being mere copy cats.

scott91777 said...

First of all,

I THOUGHT that was Winona Ryder... yeah, Why did they do that?


I'm pretty sure it was Kirk that made out with Uhura in the Original series (TV's first interracial kiss)... but she may have made out with Spock too... still, I'm curious, if your Trekkie friends know if there was any previous basis for the Uhura Spock relationship. I don't mind it, just curious.

neilshyminsky said...

"ham fisted allegories for contemporary problems, like a planet full of Native Americans or whatever"

Worst example(s)? In the early seasons, they went to two planets that were notable for being entirely monoracial. One was a planet of black people who wore stereotypically 'tribal' outfits, had an autocratic patriarchal system, and solved all their disputes with fights to the death featuring poison weapons; another was a planet of blonde white people who worse 'futuristic' revealing white outfits, were uniformly beautiful and fit, and lived in perfect harmony. The latter was, at least, something of a sham because they lived under the threat of wholly arbitrary capital punishment by some mysterious alien presence. But still... geez.

Dylan Todd said...

I'm not a Trek guy. I'm a Star Wars guy. And yet, despite my Trek aversion, I am glad to admit that this movie freaking rocks. I was sold completely.

If nothing else, it's the best film I've ever seen that stars Winona Ryder and Tyler Perry.

Geoff Klock said...

Dylan -- for the record I am neither a Star Trek or Star Wars guy. X-Men was my weapon of choice growing up.

How did I not notice that was Tyler Perry. Madness.

Dylan Todd said...

Well, to be fair, Perry wasn't in drag, so it's a common mistake. Hopefully the Director's Cut will rectify this. ;)

scott91777 said...

I noticed it... I found it kind of distracting... and I don't really find Tyler Perry recognizable enough to be distracting... he just seemed out of place... aside from being Tyler Perry... can't quite put my finger on it.

Christian O. said...

How is the Utopia idea handled? I always thought Star Trek's most defining element, and its biggest flaw, was the Utopian society they all seemed to live in. No progress. No change. A decadent and dying society refusing to evolve. They'd hit a barrier and stopped having any place to do. The lack of darkness in that regard seems to be handled pretty well, but does the civilisation seem to have a drive for something?

scott91777 said...

Speaking of the Utopia aspect, Geoff, you should check out DS9. Being that it was on the 'frontier' of the federation, the Utopia angle wasn't played up as much and, during the final seasons when we see the federation at war, the dark underbelly of that Utopia is seen as well (actually, many of the subjects addressed in the shows final seasons, rather than being ham-fisted allegories, seem oddly prophetic of post-9/11 America) also, Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Gallatica, was a key figure in that shows development.

To date, as much as I have fondness for Picard, in terms of story and character; DS9 is, by far, my favorite and the best of the franchise.

neilshyminsky said...

Yeah, the whole utopia idea is thoroughly undermined by DS9 - in the early seasons, when the Federation abandons the Maquis to the Cardassians and subsequently begins hunting them, the middle seasons when we have higher-ups (including Sisko) who are willing to abuse their power in order to protect the Federation, and in the latter seasons when we learn that since the inception of the Federation there's been a shadow-organization within the Federation that does all their dirty work.

Roddenberry apparently hated any suggestion that the Federation wasn't perfect, but it was just too boring (the Klingons were even supposed to be part of the Federation, but that was vetoed on account of ruining them) - static, ahistorical, apolitical, and way too much like some Global Northern (or, to cut closer to the core, white) fantasy of the new world order. Which is to say that the most compelling analogy for Star Trek is the unintentional one.

Dylan Todd said...

A little detail, but the art direction (I'm thinking of the scuffed, sort of grimy shuttles and the drippy Romulan vessel) skews this into the "used universe" of Star Wars instead of the gleaming Utopia of previous Star Trek iterations (think of the other artifact from the "Original Series" universe: Spock's sterilized Red Matter ship). Or maybe I'm just crazy.

ddt said...

Funny, I never thought of Star Trek as Utpoian, especially in the negative, static vein as suggested here. And I grew up as a child of the Apollo and Star Trek age.

The Fed, it seemed to me, was a child of the New Frontier optimism -- not perfect, but open to the best of ourselves personally and humanity in general. Look how TOS ran into many seeming Utopian societies, yet all felt weird to the Starfleet people, even before their artificial structures (usually, such as an alien presence, etc.) were revealed. The answer was usually Kirk destroying -- I originally typo'd "destorying", which also seems apt -- this structure in favor of an awful freedom.

Seems to me this "too-perfect Utopia" trope came about with the addition of wall-to-wall carpet in Next Generation, which I didn't like aside from that one episode Geoff mentions.

And the "falling apart" in DS9 didn't seem like a result or reaction to Utopianism, but due to tensions in any large society, and an indication that the Fed may have had universally Utopian goals (as do all political structures), but was not such a realized thing.

Jason said...

This is an excellent review. I'll go ahead and quibble with you, though. The observation that the number of Vulcans killed alludes to the Holocaust -- that is pretty canny, especially given that Nimoy is Jewish.

But then arguably Abrams did NOT lose the "allegory" aspect of Star Trek. Unless your point was more that the "ham-fisted" aspect has been cut. The Vulcan thing is a bit more subtle than the crap from "Next Generation." (I didn't see it until you pointed it out.) Is Abrams himself Jewish, by the way?

Re: The Winona Ryder thing. Did anyone notice in the credits that Kirk's mom was "Winona Kirk"? Is this all part of some crazy Abrams puzzle?

An apropos-of-nothing observation: The movie version of Kirk and Spock find the seed of their friendship in the fact that they both lost a parent to the same murderer. Realizing this, I was reminded of Lennon and McCartney (icons of the 1960s, like Kirk and Spock), whose friendship was cemented at a young age by the fact that they both had -- tragically -- lost their mothers at a young age. Interesting synchronicity.

That Michael Giaccino (probably spelled that wrong) ... he sure is something, hey? I haven't dug a composer this much since I was a teenager obsessed with Danny Elfman.

And yeah, I think Scott is right ... the big kiss on the original Star Trek was between Kirk and Uhura. As I recall, they were forced to make out by aliens. I actually thought it might be another little nod when Kirk gets to feel Uhura up, but only because he was thrown onto her by the guys fighting him.

I look forward to a follow-up from you about the structure of the film, Geoff. I agree that this is an area in which Abrams excels: He really gets how to put a story together. It was true of M:I3, true of the episodes of "Alias" that he wrote himself, and true here as well.

I like that you compared the red matter to the rabbits foot in MI3, by the way. I had the same thought as well; it took me right back to the lecture you posted on this blog a while back, in which Abrams talks about the "mystery box" that should never be opened. He deliberately doesn't explain this stuff -- not only because, as you say, it is not *about* those Macguffins, but also because as soon as you *do* explain it, all the magic goes away.

I also liked how the Klingons were to this movie what the Joker was to "Batman Begins."

Also, not sure it's been mentioned here yet ... my favorite nod to the original series ... Back then, there was always an anonymous guy in a red shirt on the "away teams" with Kirk, Spock and McCoy, who would die two minutes after they stepped foot on a planet to show how dangerous the situation was.

I liked how they did this in the film, when Kirk, Sulu and "Olsen" planet-drop in primary colored suits. Olsen wears red (an entire armored suit of red, rather than just the shirt) and dies instantly. And it happens to him *before he even lands.* Fantastic.

Jason said...

Oh, also, just to court some controversy ...

Probably very few would quibble with the opinion that this is the best Star Trek movie ever made.

But I'll go even further: Star Trek 2009 is also better than any of the Star Wars movies too. Hell, better than all of them COMBINED.

Dylan Todd said...

Jason, I'd almost agree with you if Empire wasn't so frickin' awesome. I was hoping that somewhere in the labyrinthine Lucasfilm Compound crazy Uncle George was watching a screener and weeping uncontrollably, remembering that *this* is how its done: with wit, characterization and zip, not with trade negotiations, stiff acting, too much CGI and (sigh) Jar-jars.

Geoff Klock said...

Jason I second your Star Wars opinion, though I think many will argue that combining the star wars movies into one big thing will surely bring it down a lot.

Jason said...

Geoff, that's true. But I'll make the statement either way. Better than all of them combined, better than any one of them.

Better than the very best of Star Wars, I guess is what I'm getting at. I'll totally go there.

scott91777 said...


Thems fighting words...

Actually, I will just echo Dylan... Empire is awesome. But, in all honesty, I've never felt any Star Trek/Star Wars comparisons were fair... they're kind of two different things.

However, I think we can all agree that Star Trek was fucking awseome!

(hmmmm, maybe Abrams can do the Star Wars remakes...)

Rebecca F said...

I saw Star Trek Thursday night, and I enjoyed it. I am a fan of Star Trek and watches TNG growing up. I never really understood the timeline but, I loved the movie. I am a big fan of Zachary Quinto, and I thought he pulled off the Spock role nicely.

scott91777 said...

It is worth noting that, and Pine has admitted as much, that his Kirk is basically more of a Han Solo/Indiana Jones type of character... more Ford than Shatner... So, what we have learned here is that all movies could do better to have a little more Han Solo (one of the many flaws of the Star Wars prequels was their lack of what I call 'The Han Solo' factor: i.e. amongst all the talk of Jedis and the force the voice to say "All you need is a good blaster at your side")

Geoff Klock said...

The Han Solo character is so vital because sci fi has such a tendency to slide into self-seriousness. Han Solo is always the guy who is just like "oh come on..." The Matrix Sequels and the BSG finale needed a character like that.

Jake said...

I think we should all give Star Trek a few months to settle in with us before we go saying things about it being better than Star Wars (especially Hope & Empire combined???). A lot of the time, by the time the DVD of one of these great movie experiences comes out, it's not that I don't like the movie anymore, but I've cooled on it ever so slightly.

Mitch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mitch said...

While I loved the movie too and agree that it is probably the best Trek movie, years of reading this blog have programmed me to mention that there was a HUGE coincidence in the plot: Young Spock ejects Kirk from the ship and he happens to land on the same ice planet that Old Spock did when Nero ejected him. Pretty handy.

Otherwise terrific, though. I particularly liked that at several critical points Kirk was saved or covered by his friends - Bones sneaks him onto the ship, Sulu catches him on the drill, Scotty transports him back. I like this because Kirk's reputation is that he this tenacious SOB that gets things done through charm or guts or wit, but when it really counts those aren't enough and he's just lucky his friends help him out when he needs it. A nice deflating of the Kirk "legend."

scott91777 said...


I dunno, it makes perfect sense to me... It only makes sense that Spock would have ejected him on the nearest 'M Class' planet... which would have been the same one that Nero ejected Old Spock on.

Also, I like how, at the end, 'Old Spock' is going to help rebuild the Vulcan race while 'New Spock' goes into Star Fleet. i.e. They're putting Nimoy out to stud :)

scott91777 said...

In another Star Wars comparison...

The way Kirk is done in this movie is how Anakin SHOULD have been done in the prequels.

Jason said...


Good call on the "Class M" thing. Although it was a big planet, so it's also kind of a convenient coincidence that Kirk landed only a short run from the cave that Spock was holed up in. So it is still a bit convenient. I don't mind at all, honestly, but I recognize that it's a weak point in the writing.

And, I'll admit that I just don't like the Star Wars movies that much, which is the main reason why I'm comfortable being so brash in the Star Trek comparison. There is very little in Star Wars that I really care about. (Like Geoff, my major geek obsession is X-Men.)

Still, Scott, you're right, it is probably pointless to compare the two. (But other people do it, so I end up getting sucked in to that Wars vs. Trek mentality.)

James said...

So, anyone else disappointed? Blog contrarian powers activate...

It was a lot of fun - cast, visuals, most of the design were all aces - but given the plaudits, I was surprised at how mediocre-to-bad the script was. I should not have been, and indeed, the names Orci and Kurtzman had me worried a few months ago. I guess the awesome trailers and reviews made me forget.

But yeah: the humour. That was some Jar Jar/Spider-Man 3/Transformers-level shit, for me. "Ha ha Chekov has a funny name and talks funny" seems particularly gross for 2009*, the big fucking hands, Scotty's Wild Ride... I know there's more. Oh jeez: "are you out of your Vulcan mind". No thanks. Spock's response to Nemoy's touching goodbye is to do a twitchy impression of the Quizzical Eyebrow Raise?! What. I can't seem to remember any, but it felt like there were way too many WINK WINK references to the original series, and too early in the script.

Scott: "They're putting Nimoy out to stud :)" Yes. Ew.

Nero was a good villain, and they did tie together this movie's adventure with the world-(re)building admirably, but those "two, maybe three sentences on the bridge" to explain the new timeline? They were pretty bad sentences. And look, I know that as a nerd, I'm going to need a lot less hand-holding on this stuff than the average movie-goer, but that's no excuse for clunkiness. Why would Uhura refer to the only universe she has ever conceived of as an Alternate Reality?

Design-niggles: I'm always glad to see proper aliens in Star Trek (as opposed to hungry theatre actors with latex glued to their brow), but some of the designs seemed a bit slap-dash - the wonky-eyed midwife, for example. (I have to admit to enjoying Scotty's poor little buddy, despite myself.) Jason: I'm surprised your friend was actually painted green, because to me it looked like they'd just tried using some CG filter on (the angelic) Rachel Nichols. There was definitely some post-production effect on it, anyway - they should've stuck with the paint. Apart from that; great-looking movie.

I like Michael Giacchino, but the lack of a memorable theme on a Star Trek movie is pretty damning. The original theme wouldn't have worked with the tone they were going for, and I guess they didn't incorporate the Motion Picture's title track because of its association with The Next Generation, but there was nothing to fill that void.

One last petty script-gripe: Wikipedia confirms that "Bones" comes from sawbones, so why the dumb line about his ex-wife? I cannot stand retroactive stories behind nicknames.

Despite my moans, I had a good time, and they did a great job of reinvigorating and restarting a franchise I never particularly cared for, but this movie was not the revelation I was promised. Abrams: dump those Transformers guys, ASAP.

*Is this an Abrams/Lindelof thing? Sawyer's light-hearted racism on Lost never sits right with me, either.

James said...

Oh! I, too, loved the redshirt bit - particularly because they played it completely straight. I kinda wish they hadn't decided to let the audience off the hook by establishing the guy as a dick, though.

Geoff Klock said...

I noticed the coincidence of Kirk landing right near spock too. But let me add one more "no-prize" justification -- I do not think it was a coincidence that Spock was living walking distance from Scotty's HQ and that Kirk was send walking distance to the same HQ. I do not think this solves the problem but it certainly does mitigate it.

I forgot to mention the red-shirt thing but I did enjoy that as well. In another movie I would agree with James that they should not have made him a dick, but this is not a movie that is going to mess with the audience.

Jason -- it was the "ham fisted" that I cared losing. I do not mind an allegory that is subtle -- for example 28 Weeks Later as Iraq.

I also may not have announced this on the blog but a while back MI3 was on TV while I was working and I was moved to put it on my favorite movies list -- the one on the blog. I update that all the time and Star Trek is going on it.

Abrams comment from his TED lecture about character gets me more than the "keep a mystery a mystery" thing, because the latter can get to me a mess, where you just use that as a justification for never explaining anything. You have to do both -- mystery for the sake of mystery is bad.

Jake -- that is a very fair point about giving Trek time. But I think we can do both -- I am going to be freak out happy with it now, and whatever comes next comes next. I will not regret my hyperboles later, even if I have to revise them.

Triumph of the Underdog -- good point about deflating Kirk.

James -- I am glad you decided to share complaints on a post where everyone is being almost relentlessly positive. I have a lot of respect for that as I myself have a bad habit of not liking a few sacred cows myself (and got hate mail over Duck Soup). Some of the humor did strike me as too much (e.g. Kirk's hands) but only barely so. Scotty going through the tubes I would have hated had it been anyone other than Simon Pegg -- his fan status changes how that scene works. I am going to disagree with you about the dialogue and about the alternate timeline comment but I am not sure I have the space or the memory to justify it here, other than to say that one of the qualities of good film dialogue is to communicate a lot quickly and this did that. You comment about bones is fair -- and let's not even discuss the retroactive naming of the Blob in X-Men. One of the reasons that quibbles about Trek don't land as well as they should is the movie does a good job casting anyone who would complain as a killjoy since the movie is so relentlessly fun -- Star Trek TNG on the other hand ...

James said...

Geoff: I've stayed away from Wolverine, it looks and sounds terrible. Sara's line about Logan's fickle stance on codenames is hilarious.

Like complaints, do you:

Stuff like Kirk's convenient landing never bothers me - much more glaring I thought (and I forgot to mention these) was NemoySpock's non-explanation of why he lied to Kirk. I wanted you to see the value of your epically fated friendship? By having him cruelly goad you about your lost mother/race? His exposition to Kirk on this was weird and clunky, too - Kirk's a dope for not realising that Spock has been Emotionally Compromised by watching his mother and planet die, but then Nemoy repeats that Kirk DOES have to "make him show it". His technique for which was so empty and on-the-nose it may as well have gone "Get angry!" "Okay!" *smack*

You're right to praise the efficient deployment of information versus Old Trek's Hard Science dissertations. What I am complaining about is ugly and inept use of language, which is of course subjective, but I refuse to forgive on Summer Blockbuster/Star Trek grounds - though I'm sure most will/have.

There was a lot of telling-not-showing with that epic friendship - their bonding occurs mainly via a brisk action sequence and a rather unsavoury thirst for vengeance (the "haha let's blow 'im to hell cap'n" bit felt unearned, to me).

Okay, I think I'm all done now. I really did mostly like it, honest!

scott91777 said...

No, James, it is impossible for Star Trek to be anything other than perfect... I think someone slipped you a brain slug :)

Kidding, of course.

This is one of those things where, you are absolutely right in your observations but none of them bothered me in the least.

Jason said...

I disagree with everything James said.

Loved the dialogue, laughed at the jokes, thought the "winks" to the original series were well-placed, and found it emotionally affecting in several places.

(And yep, Rachel Nichols was definitely painted green.)

I don't say this out of any disrespect ... different strokes 'n' all. But I also want to take the stance that it is not a case of agreeing with the criticisms but not caring. I love the creative choices the film made -- all of them.

Geoff, yeah, you're right about the "character" thing being more important than the "mystery" part ... good point. And, awesome about MI3. That's an underrated movie (I think it would've done better if Tom Cruise hadn't jumped on Oprah's couch like ten minutes before MI3 opened ...)

I think of Orci and Kurtzman as the writers of MI3 and "Alias", not of Transformers, which I think is safe to assume had a screenplay of equal quality to Star Trek and MI3 before Michael Bay shredded it. Whatever that means -- obviously to James it is not saying much. For my part, I have a lot of respect for them as writers ... It's well-documented that screenplays tend to get decimated over the course of filmmaking, especially by hack directors like Bay. So I prefer to judge Orci and Kurtzman by their best work rather than their worst.

No complaints about the score either ... they used the original theme song over the end credits (albeit modified considerably). And I liked the percussive theme that went over the opening title. True, it is not as memorable as earlier Star Trek scores, but it did grow on me (I've seen the movie three times already ...), and now I really like it.

Anyway ... James, for what it's worth I too appreciate reading your non-congregational opinion. (Lord knows I've got a couple ... see: Star Wars, Joss Whedon, Grant Morrison). But by god, I just can't stop loving everything about this movie.

Unknown said...

Dang! So it looks like I should see this! So it turns out this is (almost universally) good and appreciated - is it fair to say that the trailer doesn't really indicate that this would be the case?

It's nice to have a pleasant summery surprise come out of nowhere. Last time I remember that happening in film it was Pirates of the Caribbean.

James said...

Jason: Ah, okay, Alias and MI3. I couldn't figure out if Abrams had a longer history with them, or if it started with Star Trek and Fringe. I haven't seen any Alias, and I don't remember being particularly annoyed by MI3's script - though the mawkish meltdown at the end makes sense in light of their other work. Between Fringe, Transformers and certain moments in Star Trek, it'll take something special for me to stop thinking of them as having a lead ear (tin just don't clunk loud enough) for dialogue. And jokes.

hcduvall said...

Just came home from the theater--wow that was big fun. I'm very impressed with it just as a ride for everyone and good-naturedly as a geek, as an in continuity hard reboot.

I'm sure we all have our favorite "coincidences" to pick at or ignore...I like Sulu facing the one Romulan who carries a baroque mining axe in his pocket. I also like everyone standing on the bridge watching the beatdown without intervening. I do want to echo James a little bit though. I didn't end up disappointed by it, and I'd like to see the franchise continue, but I'm not assured its in the right hands. Not being terribly familiar with Abrams this is my first sustained encounter with his style and the movie feels pretty light, confectionery. I don't know where this goes (beyond involving Klingons), but a lot of the characters are quip deliverers, and since it all has to be new adventures it means every threat has to be new. The franchise isn't baggage free, it was very open and approachable but it relied a great deal on familiarity, and I don't know yet if there was enough meat in it to keep working. It's also a really young looking cast, that bugs me a tiny bit.

My only real letdown is that I've always liked the populism and go-go science/New Frontier angle in Star Trek mentioned above, troublesome as it is. I would've liked a hint at the utopian ideals--if anything Pike calling Starfleet an armada makes the militarized nature up front. I don't mind seeing those ideals under strain (DS9 is my favorite of the series), but its not really something they're even shooting for here. And whereas Star Wars has always been about a family of Fated beings on whose dysfunctions hangs the galaxy, Trek was about exceptional people instead of exceptional births. Nero being the killer of a parent each, but more importantly hunting Spock specifically is personalizing a tad more than I'd like. It's not as bad as Spider-Man 3, say, where the big ideals are reduced to a revenge story (see also Batman), but it does neuter an aspect of Star Trek that maybe has little impact to the general audience, that matters a lot to the long standing fans.

Vincent Caramela said...

I loved it too. But did you hear the original proposed ending for this film? I read somewhere that Abrams really wanted to bookend the film and end it with Kirk stealing the Romulian (sp?) ship and taking THAT for a joyride too... and scoring to the Sabotage song as it ends and the credits roll!

I don't know. Kind of hammy, I think.

Streeborama said...

I absolutely loved the new Star Trek - but am I the only one bothered by the fact that there was not one but TWO major coincidences that helped move the plot forward? The Spock maroons Kirk (as opposed to just putting him in the brig) has already been mentioned - but what about the very inciting incident of the film? Nero never states that he is out to punish Kirk - yet I'm sure he was pleasantly surprised to learn that he just coincidentally killed Kirk's father at the very moment he arrived in the new Trek universe from the Prime Trek timeline. "We really want to punish Spock - but it sure was a nice bonus to take a shot at Kirk while we're at it."

That said - I forgive Star Trek for these two minor (if you prefer - major) coincidences that were necessary to move the plot forward.

The movie was great. It moved at a near perfect pace and had almost everything one could want from a Star Trek movie that didn't involve Klingons. It has certainly earned it's place in the pantheon of great Trek films alongside Wrath of Khan and The Search For Spock. One day - some might even consider it as good as A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back - but not this day. Of all the contemporary songs to put into a futuristic film that might have sabotaged a film - SABOTAGE is not one of them. What a great song for a great new Kirk and a great new franchise.

I can't wait to see it again and again.

VariousVarieties said...

> it includes two of my least favorite things: hard science,

Is it the idea of hard science fiction in itself that you dislike? Or do you just object when it's done indulgently - when a writer spends too long trying to rationalise their clever ideas through exposition and infodumps that show off their physics knowledge?

There have been lots of hard sci-fi novels I've loved - Arthur C Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama comes to mind as one of the hardest and best. I also found Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space a good example of a novel that turned a hard-SF limitation (no faster than light travel) into one of its big strengths.

Hard sci-fi is less common on the screen than on the page, but what did you think of last year's film Moon?